On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, we began a newsletter series on garlic which will span 8 newsletters in total, and by the end of this series you will have learned all you ever wanted to know (and then some) about garlic. For those of you who are about to click on the Unsubscribe Button, please don’t! The reason we are dedicating so much writing to garlic is that it can be grown almost anywhere in the US, it is easy, dependable and fascinating to grow, and it is one of the healthiest vegetables you can consume. In grocery stores and health food markets, you can only find a few different kinds of garlic, so it is best to grow your own.
There is no question that garlic is one of the healthiest foods that humans can consume, and this fact has been known for many thousands of years. Garlic bulbs have been found in Egyptian tombs, and an ancient Egyptian medicine manual describes no less than 22 different drug formulations using garlic. A Babylonian cuneiform tablet which dates to 3000 BC includes a prescription for a garlic tonic.
During the late 20th century, a significant amount of scientific research has been focused on the health benefits of garlic. As a result, we know that selenium and germanium, often credited with garlic’s health benefits, are negligible. Garlic contains only trace amounts of germanium and a large clove will provide only 1.6% of the US Recommended Daily Allowance of selenium. However, garlic grown in selenium-enriched soils can provide as much as 4 times the recommended daily intake.
The distinctive fragrance of garlic is the result of organic sulfur compounds. Sulfur compounds have been recognized for decades as strong, effective antibacterial agents. The peculiarly effective sulfur compound contained in garlic cloves is allicin. However, allicin is not present in garlic.
|“What!?!” you say. “Now I am thoroughly confused and skeptical to boot.”
Well, it turns out that in 1944, Chester J. Cavallito and his colleagues discovered that allicin is an oxygenated sulfur compound that is created from alliin, a sulfur compound that is present in all garlic and has no antibacterial benefits whatsoever. When a garlic cell is stressed by being crushed it produces an enzyme, alliinase, which converts alliin to allicin. Most of garlic’s health benefits come from consumption of allicin.
The pharmacology of allicin is not well understood because once allicin enters the bloodstream, it is immediately converted into other substances, and it is these substances that produce the myriad of health benefits associated with garlic. However, it is known that cooking destroys allicin, so to benefit from garlic, one must consume it raw.
Cooking garlic does not destroy all of garlic’s health benefits. Other sulfur compounds contained in garlic and their derivatives are not compromised by garlic, and these compounds are helpful in blood pressure reduction, anticancer and immune system improvements. Baking and boiling produces the least beneficial effects, but sauteeing, roasting and grilling will maintain some of the health benefits.
The takeaway from this discussion is EAT RAW CRUSHED GARLIC if you wish to take maximum advantage of garlic’s health benefits.